samedi, juillet 31, 2004

Manic Street Preachers


MANIC STREET PREACHERS frontman JAMES DEAN BRADFIELD has turned his hand to production once more.

Fans of the band, who release their new album 'Life Blood' this autumn, may notice a Spectorish similarity between the band's production circa 'Everything Must Go' and the debut single from London-based duo Johnny Boy.

That's because production on 'You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve' is credited to Bradfield and longtime Manics producer Dave Eringa.

The song is getting a nationwide release via Vertigo on August 9 after proving a hit on Welsh indie label Boobytrap.

Bradfield, who married his longtime girlfriend earlier this month, has produced other bands before, most notably with less-than-successful Manchester punks Northern Uproar.

Meanwhile, the band have finished 'Life Blood', their seventh studio album, and it is set for release in October. Bassist and lyricist Nicky Wire told NME.COM: "It's modern, shiny, pure pop, elegiac pop, It really is the poppiest album we've ever done. The mixer of Goldfrapp (Tom Elmhirst) has been working with us, and he's really given it a lovely sheen and a modern edge. We've been listening to The Associates, early New Order, Joy Division. It's 'The Holy Bible' for 35 year olds!"

Oui, c'est pas mentionné dans l'article, mais en Février de l'an prochain il y aura 10 ans que Richey Edwards aka Richey James disparu mystérieusement et apparemment 4 Real...

Très drôle, Maître Joe...

The Delgados

The Delgados - In a field of their own


Scottish indie popsters THE DELGADOS are to tour the UK in support of their new album 'UNIVERSAL AUDIO'.

The follow-up to 2002's 'Hate' is released by Chemikal Underground on September 20. It was recorded in the band's own Chem19 studio in Hamilton, Lanarkshire.

The tracklisting for 'Universal Audio' is:

'I Fought The Angels'
'Is This All That I Came For?'
'Everybody Come Down'
'Come Undone'
'Get Action!'
'Sink Or Swim'
'Bits Of Bone'
'The City Consumes Us'
'Girls Of Valour'
'Keep On Breathing'
'Now And Forever'

The band hit the road shortly after the album's release - the seven-date UK tour includes a big 'homecoming' show at Glasgow Barrowlands on October 9.

The full list of shows is as follows:

Newcastle University (October 2)
Nottingham Rescue Rooms (3)
Bristol Fleece (4)
Manchester Academy 3 (5)
London Shepherd's Bush Empire (7)
Sheffield Leadmill (8)
Glasgow Barrowlands (9)

Richard Jobson

Pop star, poet, poseur - and, at last, auteur

By Ajay Close

31 July 2004

By now we are thoroughly familiar with the stock ingredients of Scottish social realism. Drink, drugs, criminality, unhappy families, gang violence, boozy sentimentality, heavy-breathing in dank alleys... Pop into Blockbuster and you'll find several examples of the genre. Richard Jobson's 16 years of Alcohol, just out on general release, ticks most of the boxes, but without the grim literalism we have come to expect. The cinematography is lush and dreamlike, a series of beautifully shot tableaux linked by a narrative voice-over that aspires - not always successfully - to poetry. The effect is at once painterly and naive, emotionally sure and just a little pretentious. Autobiographical content aside, it's very Richard Jobson.

Jobson has had many careers. Minor pop star, actor, performance poet, model, television presenter, film critic, and now director. It's a respectable CV, but in his native land he's something of an Aunt Sally. Mentioning his name to Scotsmen of a certain age elicits a particular smirk. Some have gone so far as to set up websites for the pleasure of being facetious at his expense.

In his teens, Jobson fronted the punk group The Skids, belting out floridly obscure lyrics to a generation of hormonally tormented misunderstood youth. The smirks and the facetiousness are for what the smirkers used to be, as much as for what their erstwhile hero has become. Or rather, they're for the tormented small-town adolescent who still survives inside Richard Jobson.

Not that you'd know it to look at him. A broad-shouldered, square-jawed smoothie with a toothpaste smile and a gift for eye contact, he has always had presence. In the 1990s he graced fashion shoots in glossy magazines and presented countless forgettable television shows. It brought him a reliable living and minor celebrity status, but - at least, the way he tells it now - he despised every minute of it. He didn't want to read the autocue on afternoon TV - he was an artist. The problem was, what he struggled to say was so convoluted even he didn't understand it.

It's one thing to be an aspiring artist in the suburbs, quite another to attempt it in working-class Fife. Jobson wasn't unique - down the road in Cardenden Ian Rankin harboured similar ambitions - but Dunfermline's intelligentsia numbered precisely two: Jobson and his older brother Francis. Local life revolved around football, violence and drink. Jobson had the presence, and the presence of mind, to fit in, joining a teenage gang.

The AV Toi (named after the Abbeyview council estate) had their "uniforms" made by a Glasgow tailor. They'd go to football matches in Edinburgh: 35 skinheads marching through the city, striking fear into all who saw them. On the promotional trail with 16 Years of Alcohol, Jobson has spoken of the fun of mob violence, reminiscing happily about how it feels to be stabbed or to strike an assailant with a hammer, but he has also described his youth as "claustrophobic" and "completely isolated".

His father was a miner; his mother worked in the docks: young parents with a social life they were reluctant to give up for their five sons. Jobson didn't have a particularly strong relationship with either of them. Instead he looked to Francis who, after a spell as a skinhead, became a hippie and joined the Hare Krishna temple in Edinburgh. Jobson used to visit him there.

Francis introduced his younger brother to the music of Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa and Lou Reed, and took him to movies and exhibitions. They sampled the Edinburgh Fringe, saw Joseph Beuys in a cage. It was a world unimaginable in the mean streets of Dunfermline, and Jobson coveted it. At 16 he took the first step towards escape. By then Francis had moved to London. Jobson met Stuart Adamson and formed The Skids.

If Francis was Jobson's surrogate father, Adamson was his surrogate Francis. They shared a flat in Edinburgh, wrote songs together, hit the town every night, and had three Top 20 hits between 1978 and 1980. The grandiose obfuscations of "Into the Valley" may seem risible today, but the record captured the mood of the times. For a couple of years Jobson had the heady conviction that there were people out there who understood him, and even loved him.

Then Adamson got married. Feeling abandoned, Jobson moved to London where he met the journalist Mariella Frostrup, later to become his wife. Jobson and Adamson continued to meet up in the rehearsal studio to write and record together, but the alchemy was gone: they were just a couple of professionals doing a job.

Jobson was 21 when The Skids broke up. At a stroke he lost his surrogate family, his artistic outlet and his confidence. He felt the pressure to succeed, not to become a 22-year-old loser whose best days were behind him, but he didn't know what to do next: he didn't know what to be. To make matters worse, he was diagnosed as epileptic.

Some journalists have come away from screenings of 16 Years of Alcohol under the mistaken impression that the director himself was an alcoholic. The film is certainly semi-autobiographical (the central character, Frankie, is a composite of Jobson and his brother Francis), but drink is used as a metaphor for a more pervasive problem: what Jobson calls "total despair".

Between the ages of 18 and 25 he had a very bad time. His marriage to Frostrup fell apart. He was dividing his life between London, Edinburgh and Belgium, worlds very different from the one he had grown up in. As a pop star, too, he had been out of his depth, but energy and enthusiasm had carried him through. Now he was surrounded by people who found his enthusiasms odd, intimidating, even scary. He dabbled in acting with the theatre company Paines Plough, formed the band The Armoury Show ("anthemic art rock" is the kindest description) and read his poetry in obscure Belgian clubs. He even cut a poetry disc, which was pilloried mercilessly on its release in Britain.

The labels "pretentious" and "poseur" have dogged Jobson for two decades now. Indubitably he has his vanities: narcissism was part of the job description for presenters of 1980s "yoof TV". Though no longer a model, he still dresses like one. But Jobson is the real deal - one of those people who don't feel complete unless they're making art. It's just that for a long time he wasn't any good at it.

Deep down he knew he wanted to write, but the knack of plucking words out of his subconscious and striking a chord with others had deserted him. He has talked of lacking the necessary skills and confidence to find a voice, but the problem went further: into the vexed territory of meaning itself. "I felt like a person who really didn't have anything to say," he told an interviewer last year. "The thing that was in me just ran dry. I couldn't find what it was that made sense."

Even today, words can be problematic for Jobson. Or for those listening to him. He's hyper-articulate, happy to answer any question, but the more he talks, the less comprehensible he becomes. The sentences are fine - subject, object, verb: all present and correct - but, when strung together, their import grows elusive. And yet encounters with him are not empty. There's an engaging quality about him: an emotional openness and intelligence which translates well to film. He has something to say, but for years he was speaking the wrong language.

A middle-class boy from the suburbs would have picked up a camera at art school, but Jobson took two decades to find his metier. He became a film critic and, by thinking about movies day-in, day-out, began to understand structure and storytelling. He put his theories to the test, in a small way, producing movie documentaries for Sky TV. At the same time he was making contacts. Half-hoping, he gave the Hong Kong film-maker Wong Kar Wai (director of In the Mood for Love) a copy of a long poem he'd published in 1986 called 16 Years of Alcohol. But Wong Kar Wai thought Jobson should adapt and direct it himself.

The resulting film has picked up a clutch of awards: a special commendation at the Edinburgh Film Festival; best director at the Festival of British Film in Dinard, France; and best new director at the British Independent Film Awards. The story follows Frankie (Kevin McKidd) from boyhood to premature and violent death, via membership of a skinhead gang, first love, alcoholism, redemption through art, a second shot at love, and the transcendence of the past even as that past catches up with him.

Here and there details betray the tyro director (a tendency to overdo the ticking clocks and tapping heels), but Jobson handles the emotion beautifully. From the first glimpse of Frankie, holding his whisky glass like a communion chalice, there's a lump in the viewer's throat. Though Jobson is 43, it's very much a young man's movie, immersing its audience in the heightened sensitivity and exquisite agonies of adolescence. The three-Kleenex ending has no direct parallel in Jobson's life, but it was informed by two deaths: that of his brother Francis, four years ago in India, and Stuart Adamson's suicide in 2001.

For Jobson himself, the desperate years seem to be over. He lives what he describes as a simple life in Bedfordshire with his Italian wife Francesca and their two children. The lack of metropolitan distractions allows him to control his epilepsy without drugs, and to work non-stop on his movie projects.

These include adaptations of the Gregory Burke play Gagarin Way and the children's story The Night Before Christmas, and a car chase movie set in Glasgow. There's also talk of him directing The Contract, a David Mamet script set in New York. The Purifiers, his martial arts B-movie, is to be premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Like 16 Years of Alcohol, it was shot on a tiny budget.

Keeping things small reminds him of his teenage days with the Skids: the same feeling of confidence and excitement. And, so far, similar success. At long last he's found his voice. Asked to describe himself recently, he said: "I'm partial to lyricism, I'm melancholy, I have a visual grammar, music's very important..." It would be hard to come up with a neater definition of quivering adolescence. Fortunately for Richard Jobson, and for his career as a film-maker, there's a bit of that in all of us.


Born: 6 April 1960 in Fife, Scotland.

Family: His older brother Francis died four years ago. Married to Mariella Frostrup, 1979-84. Now married to Francesca, with whom he has two children.

Career: At age 17, Jobson formed The Skids with Stuart Adamson. They had a string of hits between 1979 and 1981. He then became a model and presented film and music programmes on Sky TV and VH-1. His film 16 Years of Alcohol was released this week.

He says...: "Some people are absolutely clear about who they are really early on. I'm not one of those people. It's taken an awful long time."

They say...: "Jobson's a restless soul, an artist, and he has stuck to his beliefs." - Ian Rankin

"Richard, like many working-class people who reinvent themselves, spent a lot of his adult life running away from his beginnings. Now he's secure enough to turn his upbringing into something that's honest and really quite beautiful." - Mariella Frostrup

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

vendredi, juillet 30, 2004

Life on the edge

The Runaways' Sad Song

Bassist's new documentary captures the dark side of riot girls

When Vicki Blue first edited Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways, the bassist turned writer/producer had pieced together a mostly sunny look back at the band. But when the licensing rights for the Runaways' music were denied, she went back to the drawing board, dug deeper and the film got darker.

"I had to sit there and really stare at this footage and the moments in between the beats with these girls and pull out a different story. What I learned -- and to this day it blows my mind that I was there -- is there's such a level of damage. We all are damaged from our stints in the Runaways. There was a lot of abuse that happened in the band, and I don't mean like, 'Oh we're poor babies and we didn't get a record deal. Waah!' There's some real serious psychological damage that happened to us and it played out in our adult lives. That became the new story."

Formed in 1975, the Runaways were the brainchild of Los Angeles scenester-svengali Kim Fowley. The youth and sex appeal of the teenage girls figured heavily into the marketing of the group, a fact that didn't bother Blue when she joined the Runaways in 1977, but one that became increasingly troubling down the line.

"We were marketed as teenage jailbait," Blue says. "At the time I thought I was fully cognizant. I thought, 'I'm aware that they're marketing me as a piece of meat and it doesn't really matter because I'm going to be a rock star and I have a good head on my shoulders.' Maybe I fared better than some of the other girls, who for some reason didn't have the same mental make-up I did and are still out there trying to be rock stars. They're still out there trying to achieve that glory, and it's sad. It's a really sad film."

Procuring an interview with Fowley proved to be a challenge, with the producer first asking for $10,000, then $5,000, then $1,000, and finally agreeing to do it for free, if he could sing his answers to questions with a guitar player accompanying him.

"I shoot Kim, I get incredible footage," says Blue. "And then we're talking about licensing and he goes, 'Well, you know you owe me a publishing deal. You have to license those answers from me. Those are songs.' He wanted me to pay him royalties on every answer because every answer was a different song. It sent me over the edge. I thought, 'Oh my God, he's done it to me again.'

"We laugh about it now because we talk," Blue continued. "We're OK with each other, but at the time I thought I was going to blow his head off. That's Kim Fowley for you. Ultimately I had to license some footage from VH1. They were shooting him for another show so I sent the producer some questions to ask Kim, and that's how we got our footage. When he commented on that, I told him I learned from the master. And, of course, he had to laugh."

Of the original Runaways only Joan Jett declined to be interviewed for the documentary, and her no vote on licensing the music forced Blue to turn to former bandmate Lita Ford and Runaways friend Suzi Quatro, who helped furnish some of the band's recordings and unreleased music, which will compose the August 24th release, Music From and Which Inspired Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways.

Blue was encouraged to make the film by director Rob Reiner, who she first met during the making of This Is Spinal Tap, which he directed and she appeared in. Reiner allowed Blue to trade on his name in an effort to help secure equipment and offered an extended opinion upon the film's completion.

"I was mesmerized by Blue's wonderfully raw look at what a group of young teenaged girls went through in the late 1970s," Reiner said. "It is a real and unvarnished account of a truly dysfunctional band."

Edgeplay will close out the Don't Knock the Rock Film and Music Festival in Los Angeles on August 15th, and Blue hopes to have the movie available on DVD this fall.

(Posted heinä 29, 2004)

Mark Lanegan

The grateful undead

Mark Lanegan has always lived on the edge. He survives by making music and by always moving on, he tells Kevin Harley

30 July 2004

It's a world of pain, the one Mark Lanegan moves in. It is on the day I meet him, at any rate. Sprawled on a settee at his record label's office, the jet-lagged, 6ft-something singer - formerly of Seattle's powerhouse rural-grunge outfit Screaming Trees, occasionally of Queens of the Stone Age and largely solo - is grimacing as he rubs at his belly beneath a black T-shirt. Not only is his sour stomach giving him grief; he hasn't had much sleep in two days, either (he grabs a little mid-interview but, thankfully, not for long enough to give me a complex). "Yeah, in need of some serious sleep," he growls, rummaging furiously in the pockets of his black jeans, "and something else." Eh? "Do you know what Pepcid is? It's a space-age antacid. Here it is! Oh, thank God." He pops it, takes a deep breath and squints my way: "OK, I'm with you."

Lanegan is a man of few words, but his being with us is a thing to be thankful for. Over 15 years fronting the hard-living, in-fighting rock circus of the Trees, he cooked up a history as one of rock's most lived-in figures and developed a cadaverous aura to match. When his friends, Kurt Cobain and the Gun Club's Jeffrey Lee Pierce, died young in 1994 and 1996, it was difficult not to worry that Lanegan might be next.

His stint as a touring co-singer with QOTSA suggests the degree to which this walking-dead image has firmed up around him: materialising mid-set, he would sing about four songs, say nothing, stand stock still and vanish fast once he was done - as if to give anything away or stay in one place for too long might get him caught. The intent, he once quipped, was to get QOTSA fans asking, "Who is this vampire?"

But Lanegan is more than just a survivor. Aside from boasting one of rock's great voices - a deep, grainy and bluesily expressive rumble, now matured with age but not at all tamed - he's on a creative roll right now. With five strong solo albums behind him, recent months have seen him recording with Martina Topley-Bird and the former Belle and Sebastian chanteuse Isobel Campbell; releasing an excellent eight-track EP, Here Comes That Weird Chill; undertaking a superb solo tour hot on the well-worn heels of QOTSA's last trek; and contributing to the Queens main-man Josh Homme's Desert Sessions projects. He also has a sixth solo album, the moody, mischievously monikered Bubblegum, out on Monday under the new name of "Mark Lanegan Band", to suggest, as he puts it, "starting a new chapter, in a small way".

As for what brought on the activity, attention seems to have found Lanegan, rather than him pursuing it. "I've just been blessed with opportunity, man," he growls, his voice sounding like the roughest road even at a tired whisper. "And taking advantage of it. You have opportunities and you don't take advantage of it, it's sheer folly. I like to make records, and there were times when I wished I could make one and there weren't enough people, so now, whenever I can, I take advantage of it."

He bristles at the suggestion that touring with QOTSA might have influenced the more rock-flavoured tracks on Bubblegum, which seem to deviate slightly from the bluesy strains of his previous solo work. "Well," he frowns, "if you listen to the last record, Field Songs, there's songs like that on there. It's just the ratio between loud and quiet this time is more even. That's how I look at it. It doesn't seem like there's anything that's a radical departure from stuff I've done before. It just seems like there's more of a certain kind of song, which has less to do with who I'm playing with and more to do with who I'm not playing with."

The notable absence on the album is Mike Johnson, the former bassist with Dinosaur Jr who co-wrote Lanegan's previous solo albums and added some moody guitar work to them. What happened there? "Mike seemed less and less interested as time went on in making these records with me," Lanegan says. "Had his own records to make, which he should make. We made a lot of records together. And more than enough. Time to move on, y'know? Time to move on. Don't wanna do the same thing for the rest of your life."

The new team of collaborators on Bubblegum indicate the esteem that Lanegan is held in. QOTSA's Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri pitch in, alongside PJ Harvey, Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers), Dean Ween (Ween), Chris Goss (Masters of Reality), and the former Guns N' Roses live-hards Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin'. "That's just guys I know," Lanegan shrugs. "Duff was on Field Songs. I've stayed in his houses, watched over them while he wasn't in them. He has a lot of stuff, so he likes to have someone there." As for Harvey, is it true that Lanegan was intimidated to be singing with someone so noted for their voice? "I was probably trying to pretend I was humble when I said that," he rumbles. "I was excited to be working with her, she's fantastic. It was great. Why wouldn't it be?"

It's clear Lanegan likes to keep moving, then, although a surprising example of a working situation that did seem to become untenable was the recent splintering of the seemingly rock-solid QOTSA. Lanegan knew Josh Homme from his time in the Trees, when Homme, then in his band Kyuss, toured as a guitarist with the Seattle giants. In return, Lanegan sang on QOTSA's Rated R and Songs for the Deaf albums, describing the group as "a picture of mental health compared to the other band" (Trees). At the end of the two-year-plus tour for Songs, though, Lanegan, Homme and the band's hellfire bassist, Nick Oliveri, seemed to go their separate ways, with some apparent acrimony between the latter two players.

"You know what, I was always going to," Lanegan says of his moving on (and you think: well, of course you were). "It was always known that I was just going to work for the life of that record, which went on for a lot longer than any of us anticipated. Then I was going to come and do this. I'm still involved with the band, still on the next record."

Was he surprised by Oliveri's split with Homme? "Two very different kinds of guys," Lanegan shrugs, "which made things pretty volatile. The mix of personalities made for a very creative environment at times and some oily water at times. It's a shame they couldn't reconcile that, because together they're really great. But you know what? Separately they're great, as well. So you'll just get twice as much shit out of them."

He takes a similarly no-sentiment, just-keep-moving stance on the Screaming Trees, despite their being one of rock's genuine should-have-beens. Lanegan joined the band in 1985, having met the mountainous Conner brothers, Gary Lee (guitar) and Van (bass), when he was working for their parents, repossessing electrical appliances. He became their drummer initially, until they swapped him for someone who, he says, "could actually play drums". They scored a near-hit with "Nearly Lost You" and garnered great reviews for their 1996 swansong album, Dust, but dissolved quietly after a live reunion in 2000. These days, Lanegan isn't in touch with the Conners and isn't overly concerned that the band didn't get their due in their lifetime. "No, not really. Very happy to put that behind me. Can't think of any reason to revisit that. It was 15 years, y'know? Long enough, I think."

He began his solo career as a response to the Trees in 1990, recording the largely acoustic The Winding Sheet album with the help of Mike Johnson and the then-little-known Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. "It was a reaction against loud music," he says. "To play something a bit softer. I never thought about it too in-depthly." Does he prefer the solo work to being in a band? "It's nice to not have to put everything before a delegation to figure out if it's worth doing or not," he says, with the air of someone who likes to get things done. "And definitely, there are some records I like better than others. But I don't go back and revisit them, unless we're looking at songs for a tour. I'm usually focused on what's right in front of me."

Getting Lanegan to reflect on his past, especially today, or explore his lyrics is a tough call. It's fair enough, in a way: after all, you don't get to sing with the immediacy he does by theorising about it, and with more than one dead friend haunting his history, you can understand a certain determination to keep moving. How does he feel about Lee Pierce and Cobain cropping up in just about every interview and article on him? "Doesn't bother me. It's obvious if you listen to our records that we have much in common. Just people who were friends of mine," he adds, pausing for a heartbeat, "who aren't around anymore." Does he ever find himself wondering what they would be doing if they were? "Probably something brilliant, I'm sure. But I try not to."

Keeping moving seems to be his chief concern. Touring Bubblegum is on his slate until January, and this winter should also see the results of his work on Oliveri's Mondo Generator and Homme's QOTSA albums (he's been "passing between them like an olive branch", he says). Other possible future releases include some rare Screaming Trees material, alongside further collaborations with Greg Dulli and Isobel Campbell. What to expect from the latter is anyone's guess, but it'll probably be something brilliant, I'm sure.

He's having to turn gigs down, too: recently, conflicting schedules forced him to abandon plans to tour as the frontman with MC5, which he regretted. "I did. I was looking forward to it. Instead, I had to come here to do press for Bubblegum." I tell him I feel almost guilty. "Well, you should," he says, his humour as sandpaper-dry as his voice.

At any rate, it sounds like a cue to let him concentrate on the more pressing matters of the day. "Thank you very much, man, take care," he says, unpeeling his rangy frame from the settee, smiling wonkily and pumping my hand: "I gotta use the restroom." And with that, true to form, he's out of here like a flash.

'Bubblegum' is out on Monday on Beggars Banquet

The Winding Sheet

Mark Lanegan (Sub Pop, 1990, ) Grunge gets the blues on Lanegan's in-the-raw solo bow, including the wryly despairing "Mockingbirds" and a deep and dark cover of Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" that you really wouldn't want addressed to you.

Whiskey for the Holy Ghost

Mark Lanegan (Sub Pop, 1994, ) Postcards from the edge. "The River Rise" sees Lanegan stretching his vocals with languid muscularity, before building to a spine-chilling bellow on the tortured "Borracho". "Here comes the devil," he sings, and it sounds like it. Superb.

Scraps at Midnight

Mark Lanegan (Sub Pop, 1998, ) Apparently recorded close to a stint in rehab, the album named after a friend's cat and dog veers from light to dark with ragged majesty and, even, grace moments fit to make you swoon. The should-have-been-a-hit single, "Stay", is almost beatific, while on "Bell Black Ocean", Lanegan's world-weary growl reflects along a gorgeously simple piano melody on a love outliving death.


Screaming Trees (Epic, 1996, ) The Trees' swansong was the crowning glory of the Seattle grunge era. It was the mellowest of the Trees' Byrds-meets-Black Sabbath outings, with the man they called Old Scratch's growl on the tenderly sonorous "Look At You" sounding like that of a wounded bear. It's a great American rock album; Pearl Jam would crumble before it.

I'll Take Care of You

Mark Lanegan (Beggars Banquet, 1999, ) A covers album charting the dark flipside of the Great American songbook. Lanegan is a would-be suitor on his richly soulful yet faintly ominous take on the Brook Benton/Bobby Bland title track and Eddie Floyd's fabulously forlorn, last-ditch love-plea "Consider Me". Elsewhere, he takes good care of Jeffrey Lee Pierce's spooksome "Carry Home" and OV Wright's "On Jesus' Program". Lanegan doesn't so much change this sacred material as occupy it, possessed by and utterly in possession of the song.

Field Songs

Mark Lanegan (Beggars Banquet, 2001, ) Lanegan's last album with his trusty sideman Mike Johnson plays like a set of confessionals about being trapped and trying to get out, without, it seems, much success. "She Done Too Much" is a tragedy in miniature, "One Way Street" a stealthy chiller, "Don't Forget Me" a pleading growl. On a lighter note, the lovely "Pill Hill Serenade" sees the old bear crooning with crushed-velvet tenderness.

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

The Futureheads

Playing fast and loose

Only one of The Futureheads' songs lasts longer than three minutes. Chris Mugan meets the Sunderland speed merchants

30 July 2004

For fans of visceral guitar pop, the past year and a half have emerged as a period of exceptional vibrancy. If The Libertines' louche charisma failed to appeal, then it would have been the sharp dress and sharper riffs of Franz Ferdinand. In different ways, both groups have demonstrated that guitars still have a vital role to play in music.

Now another band is proving to be just as essential. Over a handful of almost impenetrable singles, The Futureheads have set themselves apart as the band for whom patience is not a virtue. They pack a tumult of ideas into every song, and as arrangements and timings change with neurotic speed, each instrument contributes its own jagged edge, and every member of the four-piece provides vocals. Indeed, one song on their debut, self-titled, album has them turning off clocks "and trying not to think about time". Strange for a bunch of lads the oldest of whom is 23.

At a west-London working men's club, the band are in dark shirts, lined up in front of a tinsel backdrop, while pillared art-nouveau walls clash with a municipal suspended ceiling. It is an odd venue for them and their fan-base - young dandies in blazers and angular haircuts, and punks sporting dozens of button badges that pledge allegiance to obscure acts. Then again, it is no stranger than where many bands play these days, from Franz's early warehouse parties in Glasgow, through The Others' guerrilla attacks taking over such public spaces as London Tube trains and the foyer of Radio 1, or The Libertines' gigs in their own flats. Each band has been reinventing or rediscovering what it means to be a band. For The Futureheads, this has meant a national tour of working men's clubs.

The day after the gig, one of the band's two songwriters, Barry Hyde, explains they fancied something different. "We wanted to play cities without going to the same places we'd been before. We wanted to give our fans a change," he says, laid-back and dry in humour. Hyde and his co-writer, Ross Millard, are proud of finding a new venue in their native North-east. "Newcastle's terrible for venues, but the club we played had 500 people in, and it's been brought to light now that people can use it," Millard explains earnestly.

The band's home town of Sunderland is also notoriously short of venues. The Futureheads' first gig was at a local cricket club, closely followed by a stint in an illegal drinking den. Hyde contemplates the untapped resource that is working men's clubs. "Why aren't the clubs used more? Sunderland doesn't have a venue, yet there's 20 working men's clubs," he complains.

"Who's going to them these days?" Millard asks. "Except the usual people that have been going there for years."

Despite being exhausted from the night before, Millard and Hyde are keen to chat. Hyde still has glitter on his face from sleeping on a wristband that allowed access to an after-show party. There was no time to clean up as today involves a whirl of radio, press and in-store appearances.

The bassist, Jaff Craig, and drummer, Dave Hyde, Barry's brother, are not here, but Millard and Hyde say each member would be just as happy to talk about the album, a record that has taken one and a half years to complete. The band began working with Andy Gill, formerly of the post-punk band Gang of Four and an obvious influence on the young tyros' own dense music. But the results were not as expected, Millard admits. "Our energy and power were missing. We pride ourselves on being abrasive. It's quite a celebratory performance and to get that physical presence across is so difficult," he says.

The band had to scrap many of the recordings and start from scratch on them, a potentially soul-destroying act. Eventually they found someone almost as young and enthusiastic as themselves in Paul Epworth. "Now we can be positive about it," Hyde says. "There was a period where there was a lot of negativity in us and that goes against what we are. But we had to be realistic to finish the album properly."

In the same way that they choose different venues so gigs never become mundane, The Futureheads insist their album had to be the best they could accomplish. Hyde explains: "We were against boring bands we saw in Sunderland. There was a little venue in a pub. It was a very cliquey scene with all these Britpop leftovers and we just found it really boring for lots of reasons. We didn't set out to sound like anything in particular. We just didn't want to sound like those bands."

Instead, The Futureheads devised a manifesto that would prevent them becoming complacent: "no guitar solos", and "no effects pedals" were top of the list. Hyde explains: "We make sure each instrument is as important as any other. Instead of one person getting all the attention, we want everyone to be doing something interesting, so you don't know where to look or what to listen to. A lot of bands kind of fit to certain rules, which is another reason it was difficult to get people who could record our music, because they're used to following a certain formula."

Their distinctive four-way harmonies developed as the band coalesced in his garage. "We didn't have a PA or anything and to make to as much noise as possible we would all try to shout or sing," Millard reminisces. "It was also really cold," Hyde adds. "That's why the songs are so fast. We could only play guitar one at a time, so instead of people standing around doing nothing, you just start putting in little harmonies."

"It makes it like there are no limitations on the band," Millard continues. "We get lumped in with being a post-punk revival band, but none of those bands have four-part harmonies or the arrangements we have. We do reference that material, but the limitations aren't there."

This made their early gigs into bizarre experiences. "The idea in the beginning was that the songs would be between one and two and a half minutes long," he explains. "Some of them were 30 seconds long," Hyde remembers. "Our first gig was seven minutes long. Four songs."

"There were no stops between songs," says his co-writer. "If we had to tune up, we had to do it as fast as possible, so there was no time for silence or banter."

Judging from the previous night's performance, Millard and co have mellowed. Only one song lasts longer than three minutes, but the band chat with the crowd between songs. Most of what they say is indecipherable, due in part to their thick accents and a PA that would have been better suited to a wedding reception.

The gig is a two-way celebration, rather than a confrontation, with the audience joining in on the harmonies for the band's terse cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love". "She's a favourite of ours, but then we all grew up on her. Kate Bush was played in every house," Hyde says.

"We're more confident and know that we have to put on a show for people to connect with," Millard admits. "It's great seeing people singing back at us on songs that haven't even been released as singles." He goes on to call the band's rules "academic", but points out that the songs are not. "There's a need for honesty these days. There's that many bands out there and it's so easy to hear whatever you want that you need to be forthright to stake your own claim."

This honesty comes across as brutal on the album. On "Meantime", the band decry tedious small talk, while the current single, "Decent Days and Nights", testily tells the "confused" protagonist to "say what you see". "Stupid and Shallow" is pretty much self-explanatory, though Hyde suggests the songs are not all so clear-cut.

"Most of the criticisms on that album are directed toward me. "Meantime" is about me calling myself a moron. If you are singing about yourself, or if people think you're singing about yourself, then you can sound a bit self-indulgent. If you direct it out, though, you force people to think in the same way I do. "A lot of people have those same worries about being boring, or the anxieties that you have when you're low, like about wondering who you can phone up without sounding stupid."

Nevertheless, he agrees miscomprehension is a running theme through the album. "Communication is a fact - small talk and not being understood. Without making too much of an issue about it, we are from Sunderland. It is very far away from the centre of the music industry, which has been helpful, but it means that when we were written about we were called freaks or oddballs."

Millard adds, "Yeah, we were the cheeky little Mackem [Sunderland] kids, the cast of Auf Wiedersehen Pet with guitars. But we don't see why it's strange to sing in your own accent."

All this leaves The Futureheads sounding stern and humourless, especially if you have only heard them on record. This is something Millard is keen to dismiss, pointing out the influence of Devo, the original Seventies electro-punks, a band obsessed with the dehumanising effects of technology and boiler suits.

"They did all manner of stupid, silly stuff with a straight face. And when you do that, it takes on a sinister form. That's what a lot of our album is about, little sinister things delivered with a straight face so you don't know how to take them."

Hyde adds, "We have a total laugh when we're rehearsing - after all, we are four very close mates. You have to have a sense of humour about yourself and we laugh about things that go wrong and how anal we are."

If they lose their humour at any point, it is at the mention of Franz Ferdinand. A couple of years ago, both bands were playing similar venues, both with smart shirts and edgy guitar riffs. Then, the Glaswegian group sprinted out with an album that went on to massive sales and a Mercury nomination, while The Futureheads disappeared from the scene as they grappled with their own sound. Now the comparisons between the two are getting tiresome, Hyde complains. "People keep saying, 'They'll never be as big as Franz Ferdinand', but we're not interested in that at all."

Having finally completed their own album, Millard and Hyde are seeking more subtlety on new material. Before they have a chance to put anything on tape, though, there is the small matter of their first US tour, in support of who else but Franz Ferdinand, something that fails to faze the band, says Hyde. "It'll highlight to people how different we really are."

"This tour will be a challenge," Millard adds. "Healthy competition; we don't think they're any better than us."

And nor should you. What The Futureheads lack in art-school glamour, they make up for in forthright intelligence. Having made it this far, you would not want to underestimate them.

'The Futureheads' is out now on 679. 'Decent Days and Nights' is out now

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

jeudi, juillet 29, 2004

Courtney Love

Courtney Love sentenced to 18 months of drug rehabilitation

By Chris T Nguyen in Los Angeles

28 July 2004

The rock musician Courtney Love was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in drug rehabilitation, closing one chapter in a troubled saga that began when she was accused of trying to break into her ex-boyfriend's home while high on cocaine.

Superior Court Judge Patricia M. Schnegg gave the musican until October 29 to enroll in a counseling program, which will require frequent drug testing. She will be permitted to travel, but barred from taking non-prescription drugs, drinking alcohol or being in places that serve alcohol.

"I have to stop drinking. That's funny," Ms Love said outside court, lighting a cigarette. "I think I can do it."

The 40-year-old widow of the Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain showed up to her sentencing 15 minutes late, dressed in a two-piece lavender suit and purple high heels. She sat down and immediately began reading the British music magazine NME.

She appeared demure during the hearing, despite a history of courtroom outbursts. Several times she put her hands over her face and shook her head.

The Assistant City Attorney, Jerry Baik, said the sentence was negotiated under a plea agreement with Ms Love's attorneys. She pleaded guilty on 25 May to a misdemeanor count of being under the influence of a controlled substance and agreed to enter the treatment program.

Ms Love still faces a felony case in Beverly Hills Superior Court for allegedly possessing illegal painkillers. She could face up to three years and eight months in prison.

Additionally, last month Ms Love was arraigned in New York City on charges of assault and reckless endangerment for allegedly striking a fan with a microphone stand in March, while the most recent case involves an 25 April incident in which she allegedly attacked a woman with a liquor bottle at her ex-boyfriend's Los Angeles home.

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

Melissa Etheridge Live...

...Hammersmith Apollo, London

Caroline Sullivan
Thursday July 29, 2004
The Guardian

Melissa Etheridge says, "I love to rock," a declaration that trips ominously from American lips. Sixteen years of rocking have given her voice a leathery texture that recalls Bob Seger, with whom she shares second-tier status in Britain.

Etheridge's demonstrative grittiness has won her 25m album sales and four Grammys back home, but doesn't really fly here. Consequently, her first full-band UK visit since the 1990s consists of a single show at the medium-sized Apollo. The relative intimacy is a boon for fans, thirtyish women who whoop like 13-year-olds who have found the key to Busted's dressing room. For long stretches, the audience are more interesting than the gay singer-guitarist herself. Britishly coy at first, they're soon up and throwing wild shapes. Some pelt Etheridge with balloons, others proffer phones so she can say hello to their friends. One presumably delighted person in Hawaii is treated to a new song called If You Want To, blisteringly sung down the line.

But while she's a jolly host, wisecracking about trying to find a "gals' bar" in Soho the night before, her music is a whole different thing. This is old-time arena-rock, served at top volume, with the vocal switch turned to "bawl". She endorses the view that angst can only be conveyed loudly, and to go by the din, there's a veritable storm of emotion flooding out. Her new album, Lucky, passes in a whirlwind, like an HGV blaring its horn as it roars by. When she finally takes it down a few notches on the melancholy Similar Features, it emerges that there is actually a seductively husky voice in there. Shame we don't get to hear much of it.

Etheridge is abetted on guitar by a rock-god type whose pelvic moves are, surprisingly, wasted on the audience. He and Etheridge square up, guitar to guitar, urging each other to greater heights of pained emoting. She might find it therapeutic, but it hurts - in the physical sense - to hear it.

Tuxedomoon: American Tux exiles

The US avant-rock band Tuxedomoon have sustained a 20-year career by turning their backs on their homeland. Andy Gill meets them in Rome

28 July 2004

It's a beautiful, balmy Roman evening, with the merest wisp of a breeze ushering away the remnants of the afternoon's baking heat from the Villa Ada, `a park in the city's northern reaches. This is the setting for the summer season of Roma Incontra il Mondo concerts at the Laghetto di Villa Ada, a small bulge of parkland surrounded by a horseshoe-shaped lake. As with previous years, it's a cosmo-politan series of events. In the next few weeks, the stage will host Angelique Kidjo, Tinariwen, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Cesaria Evora, The Chieftains, Trilok Gurtu and Kings of Convenience, among others. Tonight, I'm here to see Tuxedomoon, the mostly American band whose music pivots elegantly around the point where rock, jazz, contemporary classical and the avant-garde meet.

There's not a huge demand for their music in an America easily led by the corporate nose, which is why Tuxedomoon have spent most of their three-decade existence abroad, in the more amenable surroundings of Europe. After an extended hiatus through most of the Nineties, the band recently re-formed when offered the opportunity to spend a few months as artists-in-residence in a small town in the northern state of Emilia Romagna: a local theatre director, Sandro - now the town's mayor - was a big fan, it turned out.

Sandro's not alone, though. Italy has always been sympathetic to the more experimental and avant-garde forms of music, and Tuxedomoon have a fairly substantial fanbase there, even after years of inactivity, and their audience tonight is from all strata of society, and all ages, from excitable teenage girls to white-haired sixtysomethings.

"It's a particularly fertile ground for us in Italy," says Blaine Reininger, the band's violinist and guitarist. "The Italians have this happy notion that a band can work independent of a plastic product, and they can appreciate you regardless of whether you have a CD to sell or not. They'll book you because they like you, so we've played Italy often, year after year, even without an album out."

They're helped by a cultural attitude that regards the staging of small festivals as a matter of local pride, with a worthwhile call on the public purse.

"It's a question of money," explains the Belgian trumpeter Luc van Lieshout, the band's sole non-American member. "In the States, they don't put any public money into that kind of thing. They do in France, Italy and Spain."

Tuxedomoon have spent most of their career in Europe, originally moving over here in March 1981. "We liked Europe, because Europe treated us like humans," recalls Steven Brown, the band's keyboard and woodwind player. "We were seeing things like nice theatres and dressing rooms. Heating! Water to drink!"

By comparison, their homeland offered a much frostier reception. Born out of the late-Seventies collision of punk and art, Tuxedomoon were formed by Brown and Reininger following their graduation from an electronic music course at a San Francisco college. They wanted to do something that brought the energy of punk into serious electronic music - "taking the university into the punk-rock club," as Brown puts it. In San Francisco, this was no problem; there was a substantial enough artistic community of painters, musicians and filmmakers to support and participate in the "salons" they hosted. "That's what we'd call them, 'salons' - we had this thing, the Chez Dada Salon," chuckles Reininger, who remembers attending lots of avant-garde events in the city at that time, multi-media performances of notable oddity: "I saw one performance by a guy wearing a bird head which had a light-sensitive switch inside, so he'd open his beak and it would make these synth sounds, performed against these slides of his vacation in Alaska," he recalls. "I'd go to all these little events in garages and stuff, just sucking it up, because I had no money and had to amuse myself somehow. All this stuff was lying around in the cultural landscape."

Outside of San Francisco and New York, however, the response was less welcoming for Tuxedomoon's early art-punk performances. In a small Colorado town, where they had wangled a brief artist-in-residence position, they were rudely assailed by outraged locals who summarily invited them to "Go back to San Francisco, you goddamn Bowie-imitatin' faggot-ass punks!", according to Reininger.

So they did, recording their own early EPs in their kitchen on a four-track Teac, and eventually alerting the interest of Ralph Records, the record label run by local weirdos The Residents, for whom they recorded their first two albums, Half Mute (1980) and Desire (1981). The timeless quality of those albums' elegant, evocative ruminations can be gauged from the fact that the tracks from them included in tonight's show, such as "Nazca Lines" and "Desire", sound as fresh and distinctive now as they did nearly a quarter of a century ago.

But America offered little fertile ground for them to grow, and once they had experienced the more sympathetic cultural climate of Europe, they upped sticks and emigrated, with all the callow optimism of youth.

"We were that young, in our 20s, we just showed up in Europe," explains Reininger. "We didn't know where we were going to live, we didn't know what we were going to eat, we didn't know how we were going to get money, we didn't know anything about being legal - we didn't know anything! We just showed up, 'Hello!', feeling sure somebody would like us."

Not everybody did. The UK was typically grudging in its welcome, and stingy in its remuneration. Reininger remembers being so poor that he was reduced to re-rolling cigarette ends, and making a tiny bowl of soup for himself and his wife from the last of their provisions, one onion and a bouillion cube. They would sit in the dark, bereft of coins to feed the meter, hoping the sun wouldn't go down before the man from the record company turned up with some money. When he eventually arrived, they went out and bought two packs of cigarettes apiece, leaving the lights on as a defiant snub to poverty. Then when they were about to head off to the continent, the authorities suddenly seemed reluctant to let them go.

"On the 91st day of our visa, we were leaving England and [the immigration officers] said, 'You've overstayed your visa!'" recalls the bassist Peter Principle. "We said, 'But we're right at the border, we're about to leave. C'mon, just let us out!'"

In mainland Europe, things were a little better, but it was still a hand-to-mouth existence for avant-garde musicians, as always. But at least their Belgian labels, Crepuscule and Crammed Discs, perceived enough of a market for their music to allow them to subsist for years without taking day-jobs - an extraordinary achievement.

"We lived this bizarre parallel-universe version of bourgeois life, but it was never quite in sync with the reality," says Reininger. "There were moments of dire poverty, and moments of indulgence - 'Wow, I just got paid - don't let me be passin' that shoe-store now! And how 'bout some matchin' luggage on my way home?' We'd get the record advance and just blow it."

For a brief moment, they seemed about to break through to wider acclaim. "There was a time there where it seemed like we were in sync with the rest of the world," muses Reininger, "and it seemed like what we were doing was going to carry the day, culturally. Then we went back out of phase with it, and the mainstream continued being the mainstream, like it always was."

Ultimately, the poverty and cultural marginalism of their existence wore down even their feisty spirit, and the band gradually dispersed - Peter Principle returned to New York, Steven Brown moved to southern Mexico, and Blaine Reininger wound up in Greece. Then, a few years ago, they started getting requests to appear at shows in Italy, and took to reuniting for a month or two each year to play concerts and work on new material. Their geographical diversity, they found, made their brief times together all the more fulfilling.

"Because we're so geographically separated, we're able to concentrate better when we are together, and we're not so bothered about ourselves when we're apart," reckons Principle. "If we all lived in the same town and knew each other's stories and everything that happened when we weren't together, maybe it wouldn't be as easy to go on. When we get together now we have a high level of concentration, and get a lot done in a short space of time."

"It's amazing how resilient our work as a unit has been," adds Reininger. "A lot of it is about personal relations - we've known each other so damn long now that we're a lot like a family. A band is kind of in loco parentis, y'know - the culture we come from isn't all that big on family to begin with, and a band is one of the more successful alternatives. People band together for various reasons, for mutual survival and protection, and that's where we've come to: working as a group, we can all live better than we probably could on our own."

The main problems they now face are logistical: principally, how to get such far-flung band members together at the same time in one place for long enough to work. It's led to a temporary existence as "proletarian jet-setters", as they scuttle across Europe from concert to interview to launch-party for their new album, the beautifully atmospheric Cabin in the Sky. They may still live as self-proclaimed nouveaux pauvres, but for Tuxedomoon, their marginal status is a small price to pay for an artistic vision free of compromise.

"People tend to think that what they are doing is not valid if it's not reaching this mass audience," believes Reininger. "But it doesn't matter in the long run if what you're doing is good, even if only 10 people see what you're doing. As long as you're improved as a human by doing it, it can have that effect on other people. And they do seem to recognise that in Europe - they will give a sucker an even break here."

'Cabin in the Sky' is out now on Crammed Discs

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

mercredi, juillet 28, 2004

Badly Drawn Boy & mo'

Badly Drawn Boy
One Plus One Is One

Even before his bizarre live shows became legendary, Damon Gough (a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy) presented himself as a talent of the most temperamental variety. His debut, 2000's The Hour Of Bewilderbeast, swept from one style to the next, trying orchestral pop here and electronic flourishes there, mostly finding ways to make it all work but always threatening to topple under its own ambition. When the songs didn't take hold (though most did), there was always the daredevil thrill of hearing Gough push the limits. There was also a sense that he didn't really care whether his listeners liked what he was up to, so long as he made himself happy. That undercurrent continued through his next two projects, the soundtrack to About A Boy and Bewilderbeast's proper follow-up, Have You Fed The Fish? The results proved impressive anyway, but with One Plus One Is One, Gough follows his muse into a quiet cubbyhole that's unlikely to admit many others.

"As the past becomes the future, it becomes clearer that it still boils down to love," Gough sings on the album-opening title track. He fills One Plus One Is One with such fuzzy, gentle sentiments, sometimes accompanying them with a flute, sometimes with a children's choir. At times, the album sounds like a lost collaboration between Nick Drake and Jethro Tull, and one that might have best stayed lost.

It's texture without form. Gough knows how to craft a memorable song, but on One Plus One Is One, he sounds determined not to. Instead, he just keeps chugging through interesting sounds until he grows bored with them. "Every day we've got to hold on / 'Cause if we hold on, we can find some new energy," Gough and some kids chirp on "Year Of The Rat." With luck, album number four will make good on their promise. —Keith Phipps

Scissor Sisters
Scissor Sisters

There's some irony in the way the current wave of retro-inclined modern-rock acts has critics praising sounds they once shunned. People who used to choke on Journey and Kenny Loggins have swallowed Andrew W.K. with a smile, and now the New York glam-pop band Scissor Sisters is forcing a secondhand appreciation of Elton John and the Bee Gees. There's some justice to it all: If Scissor Sisters hadn't made itself buzzworthy with elaborate, gender-bending cabaret shows, some might not have accepted a pop ballad as glorious as the group's "Mary," with its watery electric piano and soft, syncopated drums. Melding a "friends forever" message with a sketch of heartbreak, "Mary" captures the sincere tone and ambiguous commitment of classic '70s lite-rock. It's both homage and explanation.

The rest of Scissor Sisters' self-titled debut is more scattershot. Taking a cue from the band members' goofy stage names (Paddy Boom, Babydaddy, Ana Matronic, and so on), a lot of the record is filled with trashy dance-floor-directed throwaways like "Filthy/Gorgeous" and "Music Is The Victim." Even Scissor Sisters' signature song, a cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," is a joke that gets less funny with each telling. The group directly quotes the guitar line from Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger" and the "aah aah aah" harmonies of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive," while using Pink Floyd's lyrics and the song's basic melody. It's an amusing deconstruction, but not the triumphant tribute to Top 40 kitsch that Scissor Sisters intends.

Still, Scissor Sisters hits some impressive heights. The debaucherous, robotic "Tits On The Radio" is a well-directed camp exercise, and the Elton John/Todd Rundgren pastiches "Take Your Mama" and "Better Luck" sound undeniably snappy. The group even equals "Mary" with the concept-defining anthem "Lovers In The Backseat," a slinky toe-tapper that equates pop music with furtive sex. —Noel Murray

Old 97’s
Drag It Up
(New West)

Apart from shedding the vintage eyeglasses, Old 97's hasn't really changed much in its 11 years of existence. Mostly, it's bounced back and forth between two spheres of influence, classic country and classic pop, while growing a little better with each bounce. The 2001 album Satellite Rides and Rhett Miller's solo album The Instigator, both excellent, probably marked the farthest extent of the group's pop ambition, so it's little wonder that the new Drag It Up retrenches in country fundamentals. The catchy choruses remain, but they bounce off a deeper twang than they have of late.

There's a country restlessness at work here, and a country casualness, too. Drag It Up opens with "Won't Be Home," which, with its lines about being "born in the back seat of a Mustang," joins its protagonist to a long tradition of lost souls who find their home only in songs. It's also one of the group's best moments, and it sets a standard higher than most of the record can reach. Drag It Up is a proper full-length, but it occasionally plays like an odds-and-ends collection: Everyone takes a turn at the mic, ballads follow uptempo tracks with little care for pacing, and the title of an old album turns up in a new song. (That's usually a sign that a song has been sitting on the shelf for a while, as any Elvis Costello fan can attest.)

That doesn't make Drag It Up a bad record, particularly in the era of the iPod. Quite a few songs would liven up any Old 97's/alt-country playlist, particularly the heartbroken lament "Blinding Sheets Of Rain" and the high-school kiss-off "Friends Forever," which outgeeks even Weezer by throwing in a boast about the chess club. The only problem is that Old 97's vets aren't used to hunting through the pretty-good stuff to get to the really-good stuff. After a three-year break between albums and a switch to a new label, it seems unwise to return on such a minor note. —Keith Phipps

Viktor Vaughn
VV:2—Venomous Villain

MF Doom's genius seems inextricably linked to his thrilling unpredictability. The rapper, producer, supervillain, and icon's deadpan verses zigzag into gloriously unexpected places, powered by potent wit, vivid imagination, an anachronistic vocabulary seemingly stolen from someone rotting away in a nursing home for the criminally insane, and a frame of reference that seems to entail popular culture in its entirety. That unpredictability extends to the way he conducts his career—his choices defy conventional wisdom at every turn. When one persona develops a following, he adopts another, only to abandon it when the fancy strikes.

This year saw the release of what may be Doom's breakthrough album: Madvillainy, a collaboration with kindred spirit and fellow shape-shifter Madlib, was rightly hailed as an instant classic by no less an arbiter of highbrow taste than The New Yorker. Most rappers would use a triumph like Madvillainy as leverage to secure a record deal with a prominent label and a roster full of big-name rappers and producers. Instead, Doom traveled in the opposite direction with VV:2—Venomous Villain, resurrecting his Viktor Vaughn persona and burrowing deeper underground with an album full of obscure producers and little-known guest MCs, released by a tiny independent with only a handful of releases to its credit.

As the lyric booklet for Madvillainy proved, Doom/Vaughn is one of few rappers whose lyrics genuinely qualify as poetry. Throughout VV2, Vaughn flexes his uncanny gift for indelible turns of phrase, stunning lyrical density, warped narratives, and evocative imagery. The entire album is a hip-hop quotable.

Augmented by a climactic guest turn from Kool Keith and stellar production that sounds melodic, glitchy, and futuristic, VV:2's 33 minutes race by in roughly half the time of Vaughn's previous album, Vaudeville Villain. Where that record was a spooky, fantastical, cross-country haunted-train trip, its sequel is a bullet-train ride that's over before passengers can catch their breath. The supervillain moves in mysterious ways, leaving his devoted cult gasping for more, eagerly anticipating the next transformation in what's shaping up to be one of rap's most original and brilliant careers. —Nathan Rabin


Like Air doing morning sit-ups after a night of loungey repose, the French rock band Phoenix gets its blood moving best when priming the pump of a pop heart. On its 2000 debut, United, the group resurrected the riches of the AOR '70s, hinting toward the elaborate melodies of Steely Dan and the kind of muted guitar arpeggios made into manna by Fleetwood Mac. The mix struck a balance between pose and pleasure, sounding both put-upon and gooey enough to return the crush of Sofia Coppola, who used the band's "Too Young" in Lost In Translation.

On Alphabetical, Phoenix sounds more easygoing, but no less fastidious. "Everything Is Everything" comes gleaming out of the gate with a mix of bright guitar chords, tingling cymbal accents, and lispy vocals that sound at home in the verse as in the chorus. "Run Run Run" makes the more aerobically charged Air link explicit with a simple acoustic-figure tumbled through in waltz-time. Steely Dan allusions show up in "If It's Not With You," which lays doo-wop backing vocals over a warm electric-piano patch.

Tasty bait for those who like their pop glitzy and expensive, Alphabetical is the kind of album that proves perfect when it's playing and hard to recall when it's not. Plentiful highlights—the electronically washed Motown clip of "Holdin' On Together," the Dr. Dre piano and dreamy dub of "Victim Of The Crime"—sound fleeting even though they were likely slaved over. Phoenix's breezy method never spikes into anthemic territory, but its sumptuousness marks the mood of open windows and brains on holiday. —Andy Battaglia

Fans of Hedwig & The Angry Inch can catch a similar cabaret/glam contact high from The Dresden Dolls' eponymous debut on 8 ft. Records. Pianist Amanda Palmer and drummer Brian Viglione trade percussive blows behind Palmer's full-throated show tunes, which are packed with loneliness and decadence. The Dresden Dolls' style initially comes across as excessively shtick-y, but the rangy structures are so imaginative that the album is hard to dismiss. Traces of The Magnetic Fields, Roxy Music, and PJ Harvey reside in the band's melancholy theatricality, but on "Half Jack" and "Coin-Operated Boy," the Dolls sound thrillingly new...

It's equally hard to define Emperor X's Tectonic Membrane/Thin Strip On An Edgeless Platform (Snowglobe), which consists of lo-fi songs made with what seems to be an acoustic guitar and a cheap Casiotone. The boyish voice, tinny beats, and serviceable melodies of one-man band Chad Matheny support quirkily introspective lyrics about pushing 25 and wondering what the future holds. It's a noteworthy debut, at once shabbily personal and surprisingly mature...

The DIY pop is much lusher on Timewellspent's eponymous Parasol debut, which delivers compact doses of psychedelic-tinged lite rock, with Pink Floyd and Steely Dan as clear reference points. Recorded on a budget but given a polished mix by Pernice Brothers' Thom Monahan, the record possesses a small-scale majesty that's intermittently wondrous...

A Pink Floyd element also surfaces on Adem's debut solo album Homesongs (Domino), which mostly forgoes the glitchtronica of the bassist's main band, Fridge, for sparsely adorned bedroom folk reminiscent of Syd Barrett and Badly Drawn Boy. The album's highlight is "Everything You Need," a zippy, hummable campfire song that builds into a dense anthem of independence...

Stoner-rock isn't hard to come by, but it's hard to do well, which makes Gonga's self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records (by way of the Invada label in the band's U.K. home) such a treat. The song structures lurch from speed-punk to sludge, with all the needles pushed to red. Gonga sounds a little like what mud would sound like if it could play scorching electric guitar...

The eight instrumentals that make up Ampline's debut disc The Choir (Tiberius) have more in common with Mission Of Burma than the standard amorphous post-rock. The Cincinnati group plays passages of complex, chiming beauty, but most of its songs begin and end in a compressed rush so intense that it's easy to forget the lack of vocals...

The three Sade sidemen who make up Sweetback could probably have filled their sophomore release Stage [2] (Epic) with sultry instrumental R&B, but instead, the band drafted sympathetic vocalists like psych-soul troubadour Chocolate Genius, whose gruff singing on the sinewy "Circles" marks the album's peak. Exotic neo-diva Aya drives the low-key, shimmering Britpop ballad "Things You'll Never Know" and the bubbly chillout dance track "Round And Round," while on "Circus Waltz" and "Shining Hour," Sweetback does actually eschew voices in favor of its own jazzy mood-setting. —Noel Murray

© Copyright 2004, Onion, Inc., All rights reserved.


'I don't even look human'

He claims to be a better songwriter than Bob Dylan and has likened himself to Charles Dickens. But is there more to Johnny Borrell, the lead singer of chart-topping Razorlight, than sheer rock'n'roll swagger?

Laura Barton finds out
Wednesday July 28, 2004
The Guardian

Borrell: 'I could have been a poet but I've never seen anyone perform poetry and not been bored out of my head. It's a dead art form'

In the half-light of mid-afternoon Johnny Borrell sits in the empty Camden Barfly. He is all angles and cigarette smoke, chicken-legged in his women's jeans, hunched over in his chair. Borrell is the pigeon-chested heart-throb of the hour, the lead singer of Razorlight, a band famous first for their cock-a-snook attitude, and then for their debut album, Up All Night, a visceral, Patti Smith-laced paean to London that went to the top of the album charts. At the age of 24, Borrell has an impeccable rock'n'roll pedigree of drugs, squats, bravado and mingling with the Libertines. With such credentials and such bone structure, it is hardly surprising that young hearts beat furiously for the tufty-haired, Bukowski-quoting braggadocio with the lip-curling voice.

The newfound pin-up status rests awkwardly on his bony shoulders. He levels me with an intense stare and says: "If I saw me I'd want to speak to me, too - I'd think, 'That guy looks like he's from Mars, he's somehow strangely compelling.' I don't even look human," he concludes, drawing his mousy hair back off his face to reveal a set of otherworldly cheekbones.

Borrell's arrogance is legendary. He has, in recent months, likened himself to both Charles Dickens and Orson Welles, and proclaimed that he is a better songwriter than Bob Dylan. Conducting a conversation with him is a little like sharing a house with a teenager as his sentences lurch from charming to petulant and back again. On the subject of Highgate school in north London, for example, where he studied for two years, Borrell bristles: "I don't really want to talk about it, know what I mean? Why would I want to talk about school? ... I mean, I might as well start talking about my mum, and my mum being ill, it's fucking personal." And the bedroom door slams shut.

He is more effusive on the subject of his musical adolescence, recalling that T'Pau's China in Your Hands was the first record he ever bought - "It was a theme she had/On a scheme he had/ told in a foreign land/To take life on earth/To the second birth/and the man was in command," he quotes. "What was all that about?" Or explaining that he was introduced to the work of Public Enemy at the age of 11 by a friend's older brother, "who was very cool - he had tattoos - Marilyn Monroe on one arm and Kiefer Sutherland on the other."

The defining moment in the life of the young Borrell came when he was 13, at a time when "the idea of listening to rock music struck me as just the gayest, stupidest thing you could do in the whole world." But one evening, sitting in his older brother's room, he heard Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven playing on the radio. "The song was very beautiful and the melody kept coming back to me and I kept trying to catch it but I couldn't, y'know? So I sat up every night waiting for it to come on the radio again, without really realising it had been a one-off. And then at the end of the week I went down to Camden market and bought a bootlegged cassette. It just totally blew my mind, kidnapped my brain."

Such was the combined impact of Stairway to Heaven and Joni Mitchell's California, which he heard around the same time, that he sat down with a guitar and a chord book and composed his first song. "It was a beautiful folk song," he declares unabashedly. "It was about specifics and universals, like every good song should be. It was about how I felt about a girl and about my guilt about growing up and towards my family and stuff like that - cos it's very confusing when you're 13." Soon he was playing his first gig in front of 200 people at the Rock Garden in Covent Garden. "It was the first time I stage-dived. It was the first time I did a gig. It was the first time I got laid."

On Up All Night, London has been his very visible muse, with references to Dalston and Weavers Field and L-O-N-D-O-N. "You write about what you see," he says simply. "And that's why I hate [Irish band] the Thrills - I think they have great songs but what's the point about singing Don't Go Back to Big Sur?" He spies London's charm in some unlikely corners, however, waxing about "the dirt on the streets, King's Cross, the feeling of having no money, waiting for the night bus and not getting on the night bus, arguing with the driver and having to walk home."

It is unlikely that Borrell will be seeing this side of London much longer - after all, do rock stars catch night buses very often? "I've walked up Camden High Street just now and it took a lot longer than it used to," he admits. "It's weird. They say, 'Hi, Johnny Borrell,' and I go, 'Hi.' They say, 'Can I have your picture?' and I say, 'Course,' and they say, 'Thanks,' and I say, 'That's a pleasure.' Cos it is."

It is a sense of well-grounded pleasure he hopes not to lose, having grown disappointed by the demise of his own rock'n'roll heroes. "I don't think there are any legends of rock any more," he spits. "I think they're all a complete disgrace. You get a fucking OBE or an MBE and you go and play polo and stuff like that. I met Rod Stewart the other day, and I went ... " - he starts singing softly - " ... 'I wish that I knew what I know now' and he just said, 'Yeah,' and he patted me on the back."

But he has already found fame inhibiting in other ways. He confesses to not having read a book or "fallen in love with" an album for a long while, and writing songs has grown harder. "To write you need to have experience," he says, "and to experience stuff you actually have to have a life." But he has a contingency plan: "What I'm doing at the moment is I'm latching on to the 1% of things - you know, when you say 'I love you' and you mean it and you mean it and you mean it, but there's always a 1% that feels the complete opposite? So I'm latching on to the 1% of situations, and then you magnify and exaggerate. It's like Borges," he adds, in a typical Borrell flourish, "when he wrote The Zahir and I."

Borrell has allegedly also been the subject of a song The Boy Looked at Johnny, by the Libertines, though he swats away the suggestion. "They just pick lines at random, that's the way they do it, the line is from a Julie Burchill book. They do that magpie thing." Though he confesses there is a line in it - "He did it with his hat on like in a saddle with his gun" - that nods to him. "That's about how not to cheat on your girlfriend," he admits sheepishly. "Which was a bit of a mistake I made."

He is feisty on the subject of why rock music matters, why Razorlight matter, more than once referring to rock as a "valid art form". "Y'know, I could've been a poet," he swaggers, "but I've never seen anyone perform poetry and been anything other than bored out of my head. Cos it's a dead art form, you know? The whole point of Razorlight is to get something that means something and has some artistic merit coming out of your speakers in three minutes. That's why movies work. It's a shame theatre can't do that, but it can't."

Yet just lately he has found himself restless to step outside the world of rock. "I just want to go and see things that aren't gigs," he says. "I really feel the need to be entertained. I wanted to go to the opera the other day, but it starts at seven o'clock, so what's the point?"

He loves dancing, though he hasn't been for a long time. "But when I dance, it's incredible," he boasts. "I can't describe it, there's no words. You just tap into your mojo and you just go. And sometimes," he adds, looking wistful, "I just wanna fucking get on a motorbike or a car and fucking drive as fast as I can, just as far away as I can." And does he ever do that? "No," he mutters, "I don't have a licence."

official site Razorlight

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

mardi, juillet 27, 2004

Clinic live...

...Manchester University

Dave Simpson
Tuesday July 27, 2004
The Guardian

Since the days of Jerry Lee Lewis and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Britain has had an enduring affection for colourful eccentric rockers from exotic parts of America that has not always been reciprocated across the pond. Perhaps English pop's more eccentric characters are seen as slightly tame in the land famous for such phenomena as serial killers and elected politicians who are plainly not all there.

All this makes the US success of Liverpool's Clinic all the more curious. They are a cult item in the UK, made up of Can/Velvet Underground obsessives. Americans took to the strange-vocalled Walking With Thee album (2002) to the point where Clinic received a Grammy nomination and a slot on David Letterman. Then the eerie The Second Line was picked up by Levi's.

Titling their forthcoming album Winchester Cathedral seems significant of both a refocusing on the UK and continuing commitment to charming Americans. Preparing for another push, their eccentricity has been slightly toned down. The heart monitors that once nestled on their amps have gone - presumably back to the NHS. However, they still wear surgical masks and gowns and a psychedelic light-show makes Clinic resemble a cross between a 1967 Pink Floyd show and an episode of Casualty.

Clinic are a melange of haunting, reggae melodica, dark shadows and twanging Fall-type riffs. Vocalist Ade Blackburn's panting, panicked lyrics sound like a man who has glimpsed the superbug. But they have lost the element of surprise. The very few new numbers don't sound discernably different from the old ones, although the excellent Country Mile shows that they can channel their energies into something resembling a pop song.

After the unexpected success of the old, warped Clinic, it will be interesting to see how the new, ever so slightly more straightforward version goes down.

· At Lemon Tree, Aberdeen (01224 642230), tonight. Then touring.

The beat goes on

The NME publisher Neil Robinson tells Chris Gray how he transformed the ageing music title into a global brand

27 July 2004

The most famous music publication ever to come out of Britain has, in recent times, been in an even more precarious state of health than some of the rock'n'roll stars on its front pages. But somehow NME has climbed off its sick-bed with a vitality that would be the envy of any client of the Priory clinic (this week's cover star Pete Doherty of The Libertines, for instance).

The paper's circulation went into meltdown after Britpop, which NME championed as strongly as it did punk, and hit a low of 70,000 in 2002, its 50th-anniversary year. It looked as if the former New Musical Express was going the way of all the other old music "inkies", such as Melody Maker, Sounds and Record Mirror. Now, after NME's transformation last September into a revamped glossy, the talk on the 27th floor of publisher IPC's headquarters is of morphing it into an international multimedia brand. The future strategy is likely to include digital distribution, cross-platform promotions and legal music downloads.

It's a long way from the days when two editions of the magazine were given over to Paul Morley joining The Clash on tour. But that was 25 years ago, and NME's world has changed. When it celebrated its 50th anniversary, the other inkies had disappeared, killed off by competition from dailies, specialist titles, monthly magazines, the internet and a post-Britpop musical void. Many thought NME would go the same way. The move to a glossy format has seen its sales climb back to more than 72,000. It is a modest turnaround given that it sold nearly 50,000 more in the mid-Nineties and well over 200,000 in the Sixties, but the recovery has earned NME publisher Neil Robinson this year's Periodical Publishers Association's Consumer Magazine Publisher of the Year award.

As well as the redesign, Robinson has overseen a chart-show tie-in with MTV2 and a series of NME Originals magazines, which reproduce everything written about some of the paper's favourite bands. He dismisses the predictions of NME's demise as "perennial pieces of lazy journalism" but is realistic enough to say that, barring a new musical movement to rival Britpop, the magazine's circulation will stay much as it is and future growth will be around the website. About 1.2m people now visit a month, 40 per cent of them outside the UK. " is the most valuable tool we ever created. This magazine could not now come out without," says Robinson. "There are pages every week that are dedicated to the research done and the information given to us via the readership of We get fantastic insights and it fits the brand strategy, which is about connecting with music fans. NME is much more than just this magazine."

The NME brand includes the annual awards, as well as website services such as a ticket line, a record shop, ringtone downloads, and an auction facility. Within a few months fans will also be able to download music, which will add to the £1m turnover Robinson says has put into profit after it initially lost "millions". Robinson is talking to both iTunes and former download outlaw Napster about a possible partnership. Further in the future, options being considered include potential NME radio or television programmes. Digital versions of the magazine are likely to appear before that, targeted at website users abroad, who would be given something that "looks like NME but is not in a paper format".

The magazine, like print media generally, Robinson believes, "is going to struggle to be anything other than what it is".

It's a hard-headed realism he employed when he became publisher of NME and after working for IPC in circulation and advertising for magazines including Loaded, Melody Maker and Country Life. His first task was to "drive the conversations" that involved telling NME journalists who successfully rode the Britpop wave that they were too old and no longer in touch with the magazine's core 19-year-old male student reader. "One of the problems was that we let the team stay there too long. A good lifespan on NME might be three to five years. NME went off the boil because people stayed there too long."

Under new editor Conor McNicholas, the magazine was redesigned and reoriented to give the 19-year-olds what they wanted, making it less of an exclusive club and embracing a broader range of music, while championing new talent. What emerged was a glossy NME, in some ways a tamer version of its inkie ancestor. Robinson sees that as the magazine simply being more honest about where it lies in the "supply chain" between record companies, retailers and fans; but former writers like Paul Morley insist such language had no place in the NME world they inhabited.

"I would never have considered there was such a thing as a supply chain," says Morley. "NME then was coming out of the Sixties and Seventies and it had a radical spirit. It is now an odd combination of a commercial enterprise with a fanzine level of enthusiasm. It has lost the idea that it was about writing. Now it is more like a weekly guide." Morley accepts that may be what the readers always wanted. "We did polls when I was there and the gig guide was always number one, the features were about number eight. Ultimately we were just a gig guide even then, though people like me thought we were being Tom Wolfe."

Robinson says there is still "great writing" in the magazine and it is facile to criticise it for losing its anarchic edge. "It's not NME's fault that the world has moved on as it has. We can't stand out there and be alternative; commercially that would be suicide now. The irony is we are still more alternative than anything else. I can still annoy the managing director of EMI."

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

Concrete Blonde

Album Title: Mojave
Producer(s): Johnette Napolitano, Jim Mankey, Gabriel Ramirez-Quezada
Genre: POP
Label/Catalog Number: Eleven Thirty/the Happy Hermit 7001
Release Date: June 29
Source: Billboard Magazine
Originally Reviewed: July 24, 2004

Concrete Blonde's "Mojave" is a sonic love affair with the desert of that name and its inhabitants—be they human or otherwise. It is filled with the desolation and foreboding wonder found within its sands, its expressions so eloquent you can almost hear the scamper of rolling tumbleweeds. Western spook story "Ghost Riders in the Sky" is told with a clucking drum and wobbling, ebbing guitar.

Bassist/vocalist Johnette Napolitano's throaty voice enriches the spoken-word "Hey Coyote" (a history of the animal's tragedies and perseverance). The title cut paints a day in the life of the desert, with its sunsets and vagabonds traveling along Highway 62. "Someone's Calling Me" invokes an extraterrestrial experience, and "Himalayan Motorcycles" is a drowsy ride. In feistier songs "True to This" and "My Tornado at Rest," Napolitano relates how her move to the
Mojave restored and rejuvenated her.


Oui, un drôle d'oiseau cette Johnette Napolitano, vue il y a quelques années par ici au Rockstore en compagnie de Steve Wynn... mais ça je vous l'ai déjà raconté, pas envie de me mettre à radoter sur mes vieux souvenirs d'une époque dorée, snif, snif...

See you buddies.

lundi, juillet 26, 2004

That's not all right

...says music business as first rock classic goes out of copyright

By Louise Jury, Arts Correspondent

26 July 2004

With Elvis Presley back in the charts 50 years after his first single was released, you might expect his record label to be raking in revenue, but a quirk of European copyright law means BMG has only months to capitalise on the re-release of "That's All Right" before it falls into the public domain.

The legal loophole allows anyone to re-release a copy of a song 50 years after it was first released, without paying royalties to the owners of the master tapes or to the performers. So half a century after the dawn of rock 'n' roll, the issue of copyright is now at the forefront of record companies' minds.

A roll-call of other early rock 'n' roll hits, including Bill Haley's "Shake, Rattle and Roll" come out of copyright in Europe simultaneously this January. Within a few years, a number of potentially lucrative recordings, such as all of the Beatles' back catalogue, could also be up for grabs. With such a major headache on the horizon, the recording industry is finally preparing to fight for terms similar to those in America.

At present in Europe, copyright protection runs out from 1 January half a century after a recording is first released, whereas recordings in America have protection for 95 years after they were made.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) is leading around 20 recording bodies, including the Association of Independent Music, by preparing to take the issue to the heart of Europe. Their first task is to get the UK Government on side.

Peter Jamieson, the BPI's executive chairman, said yesterday that the Elvis anniversary was the call to arms. "I think that in all these cases you need some kind of event to galvanise people," he said.

The dangers of the status quo were twofold, he said. Firstly, British recording companies were often competing with America, and having less favourable copyright terms put them at a commercial disadvantage. But it was also unfair to performers and record label investors that they would fail to get a return because of a free-for-all in Europe after such a short period - and often within the lifetime of the artist.

Although America has the best terms for recordings, Australia and Brazil have copyright terms of 70 years, and India 60 years. Better terms are also enjoyed by composers and writers in Britain, who enjoy copyright protection for 70 years after their death.

Mr Jamieson said that the real threat to the British recording industry was "when we get this wealth of British repertoire which started in around 1960 falling into anybody's hands". This includes the Shadows and Cliff Richard as well as the Beatles.

The cost to the record labels can be seen already with stars of the pre-rock 'n' roll era, such as Frank Sinatra. Every year, EMI finds more of his recordings being exploited as more and more songs come out of copyright. This January, the Sinatra classic "Three Coins in a Fountain" joins those already in the public domain.

There is nothing illegal in these rival recordings and some believe that making these works freely available gives the public access to historic material. But the labels argue that they invested in the artists originally and their capacity to continue to invest in new talent is often dependent on the income generated by their back catalogue.

While music purists will always want to have the best-quality recordings based on the master tapes, others will not care from whom they buy their pop classics.

The issue was raised in June last year when the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, representing the worldwide industry, asked the European Commission to extend the term of copyright. The Commission has since been working on a review.

But Mr Jamieson said that the issue seemed less pressing for other European countries who did not have such a thriving record industry.

"We're confident we'll get the Government on side, although it's early days. But European support is a different matter because they don't have the richness of sound recordings that we do."


1 January 2005 Elvis Presley's first batch of recordings fall out of copyright, including "That's All Right", "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and "Blue Moon". Others affected include Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman"

1 January 2006 Chuck Berry's debut "Maybellene", Fats Domino's "Ain't That a Shame", The Platters' "The Great Pretender" and "Bo Diddley" by Bo Diddley

1 January 2007 Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel", James Brown's "Please Please Please", Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line", Lonnie Donegan's "Rock Island Line", Tommy Steele's "Rock The Caveman" and "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard

1 January 2011 The Shadows' "Apache"

1 January 2012 "Please Mr Postman" by the Marvelettes

1 January 2013 "Love Me Do" by the Beatles followed by the entire Beatles repertoire over the following eight years

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

dimanche, juillet 25, 2004

Rock, rally and roll

The (International) Noise Conspiracy
Armed Love.(Burning Heart)

Molloy Woodcraft. The Observer. Sunday July 25, 2004

Mixing pop and politics is a dangerous game. Look at the Manic Street Preachers; they set off for Cuba to play gigs and ended up being chauffeured around like pampered pawns in the game of the very man with whom they had intended to show solidarity.

Then there is the question of sincerity. Many people would agree with the sentiments of Radiohead's Hail to the Thief; but manning the barricades and sticking it to the Man is not the same thing as, say, living in a large house near Oxford and having pots of money. Primal Scream's engagement in the case of Satpal Ram is a fine thing, but the man who brought us 'Swastika Eyes' also drummed for the Mary Chain and swung from Sonic Flower Groove to Screamadelica before going all Rolling Stones on our ass in just a few short years. Did he really mean all of that too?

Of course, once you've espoused your cause, you have to strike a balance between the music and the message; if you're not careful your work will be passé in a flash. Take Billy Bragg: I loved the accent, the rough-and-ready guitar; I loved the songs, too. But the ones that still ring true are about love; and even his own 'Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards' questioned the validity of all that proselytising.

Sweden's the (International) Noise Conspiracy are certainly committed: their last studio album, A New Morning, Changing Weather, boasted titles such as 'Capitalism Stole My Virginity', and the band made themselves quite unpopular in China in 1999 playing at illegal gigs; they also entertained the 25,000 protesters who were in Gothenburg in 2001 when Dubya paid a visit.

Their revolutionary fervour remains undimmed. The cover of Armed Love bears two slogans: 'Revolution is a heartbeat away' and ' O bailan todos, o no bailan nadie !' ('Either everyone dances or no one does'), a rallying cry for 1970s Uruguayan rebels .

The lyrics, too are full of zeal: 'Revolutionary babies on my mind/ Oh darling pick up a cobblestone and run/ And leave the old behind,' they sing on 'The Way I Feel about You'; 'This Side of Heaven' talks of 'first a great storm, then a sunrise'; the last words on the record are 'Liberation's ready to bloom tonight'.

And nor is it all terribly terribly earnest - there's a real sense of glee in 'Communist Moon' when the refrain 'Let's all share our dreams under a communist moon' breaks in again at the end, a cappella and off-kilter; and 'Black Mask' celebrates the balaclava by warbling tongue-in- cheek about 'soft fabric on my skin' before the refrain: 'Put it on put it on, put it on, I need something that can turn me on.'

So much for the message: the spoonful of sugar that helps it go down is the music. Apparently, the group were approached by the producer Rick Rubin rather than the other way around, and he has done a sterling job. No doubt his presence helped coax Billy Preston and Benmont Tench into taking on keyboard duties.

Their work has the effect of drawing the music out of naff rawk territory and into the green pastures of new wave; both spar with the guitars and underpin the action like Steve Nieve in the Attractions. Opener 'A Small Demand', with its sax solo by Jonas Kullhammar, has an air of Boomtown Rats; 'Let's Make History' is a sparse affair driven along by a riveting bass riff; 'This Side of Heaven' delves into rockabilly rhythms, and elsewhere, especially in Dennis Lyxzén's vocals, the band give their countrymen the Hives a run for their melodic money. The whole is full of nice changes of texture - the low, bluesy guitar solo which plays out 'The Way I Feel about You'; the stadium reverb on the guitar in 'All in All'. The title track runs the gamut, from the thumping drumbeat of the opening, raining down righteous fists onto the central riff, to the harmonica and guitar breakdown at the close. At least once a track you think: hmm, nice touch. And 'Black Mask' rocks like Primal Scream's 'Rocks'.

In short, the (International) Noise Conspiracy take the stuff of the nu-garage revolution and twist it to their own ends to at times beguiling effect. Mixing pop and politics, then: will it catch on? No, but this is well worth a listen.